We all know these tender vegetables that are grown during the warm season — these plants have a shallow root system and will usually have green coloring when they receive proper care. Young cucumbers will need frequent watering and become fast growers, so it’s essential to have regular cucumber harvesting. But even when you think you’re doing everything right, you’re still seeing yellow cucumbers, which begs the question, “are yellow cucumbers safe to eat?”
Below, we provide the answer to this question, while addressing other concerns such as why cucumbers turn yellow and how you can prevent it.
Table of Contents
Is it Safe to Eat a Yellow Cucumber?
The short answer is yes, you can, but you won’t like how they taste. Overripe cucumbers will have a bitter taste when left out for too long. Because they’re so old, they are no longer as appetizing as fresh cucumbers, but there are still a few ways to use them. A lot of the time, people will use yellow cucumbers for relish, where the cucumber’s bitter taste can be covered by the pickling ingredients.
Why Do Cucumbers Turn Yellow?
You can easily spot these kinds of cucumbers due to their golden or yellow hue, and while their nutritional value won’t change, their texture and taste will be different from green cucumbers. Even so, bitter cucumbers can be used for a wide variety of dishes depending on the kind of cucumber you have, along with your preferences. But you’re probably wondering why there are yellow cucumbers in your backyard — the most common causes are listed below.
1. Lack of Pollination
While some people may not realize it, there are male and female cucumbers — the best way to tell the two apart is to look at the bright yellow flowers that grow on the plant. Female flowers will have an “ovary” growing behind the flower, while a male cucumber won’t have this feature and will grow on thinner stems. If a female flower receives poor pollination, the smaller cucumbers growing behind it will become yellow and inevitably drop from the vine.
2. Viral Diseases
Common diseases in these plants include the cucumber mosaic virus, which affects a wide range of hosts and can be found throughout the world. It can turn cucumbers yellow and brown, and can also make them taste bitter. The most obvious signs of this disease are the appearance of distorted and mottled cucumber leaves. It also stunts the leaves’ ability to grow and function normally, making the plant struggle and eventually stop growing. In the end, the small cucumber will have white or yellow spots all over its body.
3. Fungal Diseases
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that attacks cucumber leaves, starting off as a white powder at the surface, before coating the entire leaf. This disease typically shows around summer, thriving in hot and dry environments. It will have a weakening effect on plants, affecting their yield while causing fruits to ripen prematurely and making them turn yellow.
3. Harvesting Too Late
One of the most common reasons why a cucumber turns yellow is because they aren’t harvested on time. Depending on the type of cucumber, they are generally ready to be eaten between 50 to 70 days after they are planted. Their bright to dark green coloration is a clear indicator that they’re ready for harvest.
But the longer they’re kept on the vine, the more their colors will fade away and eventually adopt a yellow or orange hue. They will also grow huge simply because they’ve been growing longer than intended, which will lead to fewer fruits and a bitter taste. To avoid this from happening, be sure to harvest them earlier — after getting pollinated, simply wait 10 days to ensure they’re ready to eat.
Giving your plants too much water means that the soil will run out of essential minerals, such as nitrogen and calcium which plants need to grow. When nutrient deficiency occurs, cucumbers can quickly turn yellow, even before they’re ready to be harvested. To ensure this doesn’t happen, keep in mind that cucumbers only need an inch of water during winter and two inches of water each week during summer.
5. Inadequate Nutrition
Cucumbers will grow according to plan when they are provided with the right combination and amount of nutrients. A great way to make sure that they get enough nutrients is to use a balanced fertilizer or add a compost pile for your cucumbers during the planting process. Once the flowers come out, be sure to fertilize again and do the same for each month of the growing season.
6. Depleted Soil
Crop rotation is essential when growing cucumbers to stop them from developing a yellow color. If you grow cucumbers in the same spot next year, your soil will develop nutrient deficiencies and will be unable to sustain healthy cucumbers. But this isn’t just true for cucumbers, but for all the plants you decide to grow in your vegetable garden, so be sure to switch places to keep your plants happy.
7. Cucumber Beetles
The larvae of these insects will usually feed on the roots, but adults can bring more damage to the rest of the cucumber. They are heavy feeders that can cause unappealing marks and scars on mature fruits and affected plants will often have yellow and wilting leaves as a result of bacterial wilt. While they can’t damage a whole cucumber too much on their own, the diseases they spread can do more.
A good way to get rid of these pests is to use insecticidal soap, which can also help with stopping the spread of plant disease.
Yellow Cucumber Varieties
The most common cause of yellow cucumbers is the most obvious one — it belongs to a yellow cucumber variety. Some cucumbers should only be used when they are from a yellow variety; these are highly suitable for cooking and eating specific dishes. Here are some of the most popular cucumbers with a yellow hue.
1. Yellow Submarine
This variety can grow huge and has a bright yellow color — they are sweeter compared to green cucumbers and barely become bitter. Yellow submarine cucumbers are one of the more resistant varieties, making them easy to grow. They can be ready to harvest in as little as two months and work well in sandwiches and salads.
2. Lemon Cucumber
An heirloom variety, this exotic cucumber takes its name from its unique lemon-like color. They also have a look similar to that of real lemons and are unusually round. Growing as big as a tennis ball, they have a mildly sweet taste; they’re crispy and juicy, making them great for salads or can be used as a snack.
3. Salt and Pepper
These are small and cylindrical cucumbers that are a lot smaller than your typical yellow cucumber. Thanks to their mild and delicately sweet flavor as well as crisp texture, they’re ideal for snacking and pickling. Salt and pepper cucumbers were bred specifically for this distinct flavor profile, and their resilience to mildew and diseases have earned them awards.
4. Mexican Mini Cucumbers
These small cucumbers are only the size of a grape, and as their name suggests, they were originally grown in Mexico. They are climber cucumbers that are both low-maintenance and hardy, with skin that resembles that of watermelons. Because of their savory, yet tangy taste, they are versatile and can be enjoyed in a number of ways, including:
- As a snack
- In salads
- In sandwiches
Try Yellow Cucumber Varieties
The main reasons behind a cucumber turning yellow include viruses, diseases, improper care, no pollination, and soil depletion. However, some cucumber varieties have a yellow coloration, to begin with, and that’s not always a bad thing. These yellow variants offer just as much nutrition and can provide versatility to our dishes, and are grown and eaten in the same way as their green counterparts.
Why not try a yellow cucumber? You never know, you might develop a new appreciation for this underrated fruit.
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